Moony and Padfoot
Moony and Padfoot
The green one is Treble and the brown is Bass. .>
That's... wait, no, that's not right. Your musically-inclined friend - one of your first Nexmesh friends - suggested it, but your father veto'ed the idea. You also tried Piano and Forte (suggested by the same friend), Red and Blue (vetoed due to not even matching, which you had to concede), Gypsy and Servo (suggested by your tech-savvy friend, to which you just got an uncomprehending glare... you can't blame your father, you didn't get it either), and even your own suggestions, such as Thing One and Thing Two. Really your imagination needs work.
Those aren't, as a result, technically their official names. They're named Angua (the green) and Delphine (the brown). How could you have forgotten? Maybe you really do have too much on your mind right now.
It's for the best that they were lurking right outside your door, waiting to pounce the instant you or your Father emerged. Getting the animals penned is always much easier with these two around to corral them.
Pen the animals .>
You head out toward the pasture with your faithful friends at your heels. You have three sets of grazing cattle you'll need to retrieve:
- A trio of RELTANS who will need to be placed in their STALLS in the BARN. Reltans are beasts of burden and transport, used for hauling or pulling heavy loads and for travel purposes, whether carrying a rider on their backs or pulling a cart behind. They stand easily a head taller than you on average, with narrow heads on strong, long, thick necks with a narrow mane of feathers along their spines. Their bodies are barrel-shaped, with four long narrow legs ending in two-clawed feet. Unlike most of the species on Tetraterra, Reltans have no tails save for a crest of feathers extending off their backs.
- A flock of GHARN you'll need to shepherd into a smaller PEN. Gharn are short, stocky herbivores that grow thick coats of soft, downy feathers at an exceedingly quick rate. Their heads are wide and flat, with jutting tusks used for digging up roots and grasses and flat grinding teeth with which to eat. Males have large curling horns protruding from their heads, mostly used for attracting mates and fighting off competitors. Their bodies are built low to the ground, with short stumpy legs and paw-like feet that lack claws, and wreathed in fluffy, colorful down feathers. They have short, wide, flat tails that flop noisily against the ground - this seems to be their main method of communication, as they don't make much noise otherwise.
- And a herd of VOCOST who will need to be directed to a larger PEN without pushing them into a STAMPEDE. Vocost are cousins to Reltans, but distantly. Their bodies are built much the same, but their heads are rounder and not as long and their necks much shorter, and their feet have actual hooves rather than claws. They also do have tails, though they are short, whiplike, and end in tufts of feathers - and other than there and on their necks and ears, they lack feathers completely. Vocost are grazing herbivores kept primarily for their milk and meat, which make up the majority of your family's food as well as your profits, and their hides, which once the scales have been removed can be tanned and made into leather.
> Try to cram them all into the BARN.
> Vocost first, Gharn second and Reltans last.
Try to cram them all into the BARN. .>
You WISH you had a barn that big. Sadly, there are only the three stalls sized for the Reltans, and much of the rest of the space - as well as the upper loft - is taken up by stored supplies or equipment. You could probably cram the majority of the Gharn flock in, but they tend to panic when forced into enclosed spaces; the only reason getting them into their pen works is because they can see through the bars of the fence and up into the open sky. Inside a walled building they'd likely panic and injure themselves.
Yeah let's not do that.
> Pen them all in ten seconds flat.
> Failing that, pen them the most efficient way you can think of.
Whichever is the most likely to wander away you pen first, the most sedate for last.
Active first, sedate last. .>
That's a logical procedure, and it's typically the way you do this anyway so you have force of habit working in your favor as well. This means the energetic and far-roaming Reltans will be barned up first, then the meandering herd of Vocost, leaving the languid Gharn flock for last.
You instruct your pets to follow close and set out along the dirt trail that cuts through your father's property, headed out toward the fields where your cattle graze and wander. As previously stated it's a long way until you reach someone else's property, so you could probably walk for the remaining rest of the day before you leave your own land, and your animals have pretty much free reign of the whole of it for the entirety of the day. That's another reason it's probably a good choice to go after the Reltans first - you can barn up two of them, then hop on the third and ride it while you fetch the rest of the beasts.
As you leave the area where your house and barn are, you come to a small, fenced-in plot of ground just on the other side of a slight hill, a few yards north of the dirt road. The fence itself has been long overrun with red ivy, a common weed in these parts that you are often tasked with removing from the buildings but which your father allows to grow here because he thinks it looks pretty as long as it's controlled and not climbing on something vital like your home. However, the plot itself is bare of anything save well-tended grass and a single oval-shaped piece of marble at the center of the far end.
This is your mother's grave. She died before the end of your first span, after coming down with the chilling sickness - a disease that is rare but more often than not lethal for your kind, as it prevents your body from taking the heat it needs to survive from the air around you. You have only the vaguest memories of her; all your other knowledge is due to paintings they had done while she was alive and stories your father has shared. Sometimes he will come here and talk to himself, as if trying to converse with her, or simply stare off into space for an hour or so.
You tend to find ways to busy yourself elsewhere when he gets into those moods. They've been becoming more and more common recently, as well. Perhaps because of how you've been getting closer to adulthood? You try not to think about it.
We probably shouldn't dawdle here. Let's move on.
Continuing your travels, you head off north from the road a few hundred yards past the gravesite. There is a copse of trees and a small pond not far from here where the animals go for water and tend to congregate. Your search is best started there.
Delphine and Angua amuse themselves by chasing shutterflies and jumping through the grass at the occasional mayhare or screcko as you weave your way through the field. A few times they bolt off, chasing after whatever they've stirred up until you shout and call them back, which they reluctantly obey. They're good at holding the pest population down and keeping them out of the house, but if you let them chase things all day you'll never get anything done.
You yourself take the time to appreciate the world, and your thoughts begin to drift. Out here, alone save for the wilds and the wind, the sky and the sun, the moons and the mountains on the horizon, your mind has a tendency to meander and your imagination to admit things it would have clung to fiercely anywhere else. Out here, with just your playful hounds as company, you can admit that you are not as excited about the day to come as you should be.
In fact, you're a bit afraid.
Scratch that, you're a lot afraid.
It's less than a sunrise until your Hatchday. Just one night between you and your adulthood, and the only thing you are certain of is that you aren't ready. You're not ready to leave, you have nowhere to go and no idea what you'd do when you got there. So you'll stay, tenanting on what today is your home, living like a stranger and feeling like a failure. Did you delay too long? Or did you screw up somewhere along the way? You have no idea what you're supposed to be doing, and your father and many of your friends have told you that figuring it out on your own is part of the process. And you are completely, utterly baffled.
You feel like you're looking down a dark hallway, or stumbling along a rocky corridor with your eyes covered. Like someone has shrouded the sun for you and you alone, and expects you to make your way through blind without a guide.
"The last light has gone out of the world, except this moonlight lying on the grass like frost, beyond the brink of shadow."
You have no idea who said that.
About twenty minutes after departing from your house, you arrive at the pond. The water is its usual pale green, surprisingly clear and certainly cool; you've come here to swim nearly all your life, though unlike your pets and stock you're not too fond of the idea of drinking from it. Nothing lives in the water except for larval screckoes, which has obstructed any intent you ever had of going fishing while you were younger. The trees above are strong, thick old boroaks that have several months since ceased blooming as summer waxed on and the heat reduced their flowers to nothing, leaving their blue-black leaves and pitchy, sap-strewn trunks. Four of these towering monoliths, each easily thrice your height and covered in thick jutting limbs perfect for climbing, stand at or lean over the pond's east edge.
In their shade stand two of the three Reltans, just as you'd hoped to find. The first, Pyrois, is your only stallion: bright red scales with a straw-brown mane and tail, and glassy black claws that look recently sharpened, likely on the rubble from a broken-down old wall out in the middle of the field or the stones of an abandoned quarry some ways to the south. Aethon, the second, is pale mottled grey in color and sports a mane of dark blue to match the trees above her, with white claws; when she was foaled your father thought she might be an albino, before her mane came in.
Both lift their heads from the water and nicker at you as you approach, their familiarity with you and your fenprin keeping them from startling and bolting back off into the fields, forcing you to start the chase again. No sign of Aeos, your third. Where could she have gone...?
Pen the two that are there and look for Aeos in a bit.
> I have no idea where Aeos went, but scrambling up a monolith to look for her sounds like a good idea to me.
But hey, we're going to get regular updates, and I know Oblivion will enjoy this format more. Definitely a fair tradeoff.
That said, if you know someone who would be interested in drawing updates to go along with the text, I'm more than willing to work on this as a collaborative project. Such people tend to be few and far between however.
I'd be interested, but I'm probably not your best option on the art front, broski.
> Split up to find Aeos. Pyrothis takes the north part of the property, Aethon takes the south. You cover everything else.
Split up! .>
Sounds good. You'll cover more ground this way. You draw your WHIP and crack it in the air a few times, directing Aethon and Pyrothis in the proper directions; after a bit of skittish scampering they both gallop off in the proper directions.
It is only as you are watching them crest over the hill that you realize you should have sent Angua and Delphine, who are not only sitting loyally next to your feet unperturbed by the whipcracks and eagerly awaiting instructions but also know how to come when called and have exceptionally good hearing, to search for the missing Aeos instead of the other two reltans you just spent an hour finding. Now instead of one to track down, you're once again back to three.
Way to go, douchefang.
Climb up for a better look. .>
Right then, we've got our work cut out for us so let's not dawdle. Again.
You make your way over to one of the massive trees and begin scaling, digging your claws into the thick bark of the trunk and hauling yourself up, grabbing or stepping onto branches for the extra boost. Your hands and feet get soaked in sap, but you can wash off before you leave. It doesn't take you much time at all to reach the higher branches, and from here you have an exceptional view of the surrounding terrain.
To the north the fields continue over rolling hills and sweeping shallow valleys. There is a fence some ways out originally constructed to keep the vocost from wandering too far; you can see the herd along its border from here. Once the reltans are dealt with, you'll be headed that way. Beyond is more prarieland, but it's less well-kept than the heavily-grazed grass on this side of the barricade.
To the south you can see the road that leads back to your house and barn, and beyond that the southern fields. Much of this is cropland, and the waving swaths of red, purple, and maroon stand out strongly against the green and brown landscape and the deep blue sky and sun. Beyond this, the rich soil gives way to rockier earth as you near an area you and your father refer to as The Crag - a stony crevasse cut into the ground by some manner of natural disaster some time well before you hatched. The eastern portion of The Crag was once used as a quarry, but that was abandoned before your father claimed this land, or so he tells you. The reltans like to go there because the rocks make for good climbing and sharpening their claws, but it's also a prime place for feral predators to try to make dens and you have to clear it out about once a season. Caimadons are the most common invader, and you wouldn't be surprised to find one living there now. Or worse, a clutch of them. You don't think they have - or perhaps more accurately, you really really hope they have not - had time to get big enough to become less a clutch and more a pride.
To the west you see your house, more cropland, and more fields. The silohuette of some distant mountains cuts just barely into the bottom of the horizon; beyond those mountains are where some of your friends live. Way, way beyond. To the east, rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
> Go look in the south for Aethon. Hopefully the fence will keep Pyrothis from straying too far. Also hopefully you will find Aethos in the process. Can Angua and Delphine track scents?
Search to the South. .>
You climb down and dunk your hands and feet in the pond to wash off the sap. The screcko larvae in the water immediately swarm out from under their pebbles and reeds to nibble on the sweet gooey substance as it drifts off.
You notice now that your bandage is pretty drenched in sap, so you pull it off and toss it aside as well. The wound in your hand has stopped bleeding thankfully, but the scales around it are already starting to peel away. You make an effort not to pick at it and turn your attention southward.
Have the fenprin track their scents. .>
Of course they can track. As guard animals, hunting pets, and shepherding assistants they would have been much less useful to breed and domesticate if they didn't have such strong senses of smell and hearing. Doubly so since their vision is a bit on the poorer side, they need their other senses to pick up the slack.
Like any tracking animal, though, they can't just pick a random scent out of the field and start tracking it and expect to stumble onto exactly the target you happen to be searching for. You head over to where the reltans were drinking and poke around on the edge of the pond a bit, sorting through the grasses and reeds looking for something of Aethon's - a loose scale, a discarded feather, or a chip of claw.
After a little searching, you find a distinct blue feather caught in the low-hanging branches of one of the trees, one you're almost certain came from Aethon's tail. It's torn pretty ragged, but it doesn't need to be in good condition for them to start searching for the trail; it just needs to still be carrying her scent. As it's dry and not brittle, it's probably pretty fresh, possibly pulled off as she turned to run when you frightened them off earlier.
You hold the feather out to Angua and Delphine and they immediately begin sniffing over it, tails flopping about eagerly as you finally begin paying attention to them again. After a few moments of that, they turn and begin nosing about on the ground, poking their heads through the reeds and ducking under the grass, occasionally popping up and sniffing at the air.
This goes on for about two or three minutes before Delphine apparently finds something. She barks once, then again, then bounds off as fast as her legs will carry her on a vaguely southward course. Angua returns the second bark and bolts after her.
You, this time, don't stop to consider your options. You simply run after them as well, keeping up with them as best you can and doing your best to follow their trail through the fields.
The fenprin charge all the way south across the field back to the thoroughfare, pause and pace around in circles for a few seconds sniffing at the dirt and air, then resume the chase south as if they'd never stopped. You stop at the road as well, taking a moment to catch your breath, and have a look at the ground while you do. Despite being obscured by their pawprints, you can clearly see the marks of reltan claws tracked through the loose soil. You're on the right track.
You resume your run south. The fields here are shorter except where the crops are grown to the west, which is fenced off to keep the Gharn flocks from devouring your plantation down to the last root. Docile they may be, but the creatures are ravenous herbivores and will eat almost anything that grows out of the ground right down to the topsoil. The lack of an obvious recent path through tall grass here will make keeping up with your pets more difficult if you lose sight of them, so you pick up the pace.
However, you come to a sudden halt when you see Delphine suddenly make a sharp turn to the southeast, Angua hot on her tail. They're headed directly for the Crag. Now you HAVE to find Aethos, and soon - you're almost certain in the time since you and your father last cleared those rocks out that something will have made itself a den there, and more likely than not that something will happily make a meal of a reltan if it can catch it. Angua and Delphine might be able to keep one caimadon or osterraptor occupied until you arrive, but if there's more than that....
You resume running, forcing your muscles into full sprint toward the Crag.
You arrive about two minutes later.
Thankfully, your spans of working the ranch have given you plenty of physical endurance. You're a little winded, but hardly down for the count; you're certain you could resume running - or more importantly, fight - if you need to.
You stand at the northwest entrance of the Crag: a jagged, rocky valley about ten taillengths wide on this end that looks like some godlike giant carved a clawmark into the ground, and mostly made up of dusty grey stone. From here the descent is a gentle slope that gradually widens and steepens as it descends, going about thirty taillengths deep on the far east end. There it opens into a wide circular pit with several small caverns around the edges, and a few piles of discarded stone, old warped wood, and long-rusted metal scattered about the ground, evidence of the quarry that once operated here.
A sharp bend in the resulting box canyon below prevents you from seeing fully into the Crag's basin; you see tracks all over the place at the top of the decline, but no visible sign of Angua, Delphine, or either of your missing reltans. However, from down in the pit you can hear distorted rumbling noises... something between a growl and a snarl. Several of them.
What do you do?
> Start throwing rocks and shouting into The Crag to make the loudest echo possible.
Tuck the feather behind your crest. Strike a fabulous pose.
>Hope that the majority of those noises are from your fenprin, find a good rock to use as a weapon and charge in.
Tuck the feather behind your crest. Strike a fabulous pose. .>
You're really not sure why you're still carrying it, but you stick it behind your crest anyway.
You stand on a nearby boulder, one hand pointed toward the horizon as the other rests on your hip. You don't get much further than that before another sudden snarl, followed by yipping and barking, causes you to break your stance.
Run away. .>
You're no coward! The only way you'll be running is forward.
Find a good rock to use as a weapon. .>
Why would you need a rock? Your PREDATION PORTFOLIO is set to WHIPKIND and has been for spans, and like any sane person you're armed.
Start throwing rocks and shouting into The Crag to make the loudest echo possible. .>
Oh. Okay, yeah, that would be a good use for a rock.
You pick up some of the loose debris at the top of the Crag and start tossing it down. Given the canyon's shape, the sound carries easily and for a moment the noises on the other side stop. Then another distorted yowl carries over your own noises, followed by more barking and growling... and the terrified whinny of a reltan.
Whip in one hand and a rock in the other, you leap forward and begin making your way rapidly down the slope into the Crag. As you descend, the path becomes steeper, and by the time you're halfway down you're less running and more sliding toward the bottom, holding out your arms and tail to maintain your balance.
You skid to a stop, kicking up a cloud of dust and pebbles and splinters as you reach the floor of the Crag. The noises are louder, and more constant and discernible at this distance: two are obviously your fenprin, aggressively trying to assert their territorial control on an invader. You've heard this growl many times before. One sound is the frenzied hyperventilation of an injured animal, occasionally punctuated with a high-pitched squeal or pained whinny; one of your reltans, hurt and possibly trapped at the bottom of the canyon.
The last sound is a feral snarl that sometimes grows into a yowl. The familiar cry of a caimadon.
You round the bend in the canyon and come face to face with exactly what you expected. Aethos lies in a heap against the back wall of the canyon, with Delphine and Angua standing off in front of her, teeth bared, hackles raised, and manes flared. Between you and them is a female caimadon with blood on her claws.
Caimadon are pride-based hunting predators that dwell in caves and plains alike. They're about the same size as a fenprin, but sleeker and faster, with large jutting fangs descending from their upper jaws as their primary trait. They have sharp ripping claws on their forelegs and strong, thick tails.
This one is, miraculously, occupied enough with your fenprin being between it and its would-be meal that it doesn't notice your arrival. Thankfully it's not a male - males never hunt alone, always with a mate, while females tend to hunt for the pride alone if they're not paired. Unless the mate is lurking about somewhere and you don't see him, it should just be this one alone.
What do you do?
PREY or PASS?
> If it's just one camaidon vs. you and the fenprin, I'm sure you can take it. Especially if you have the element of surprise. Do you find the idea of eating camaidon appetizing?
You're confident you can take out this creature between the three of you, no trouble. You have it trapped between you and your pets, at the bottom of a canyon with no way out but through you. This will probably be the easiest caimadon encounter you've ever had.
Weapon in hand you move out of your hiding place and approach your quarry.
You've practiced with your whips for moons on end, not only using them for combat but for chores as well, so lassoing a target is easy enough for you that you can do it almost by instinct now. You let fly with your cord and catch the caimadon by an ankle as it takes another prowler's step forward.
You catch it with ease, and the creature jerks to a stop as you pull back on the tether. Snarling, it turns its head back to glare at you and bare its fangs, and Angua and Delphine spring into action as soon as they're given an opening.
Your fenprin pounce on the caimadon, Angua charging straight into its forepaws and knocking it over backwards and Delphine leaping atop it to pin it down. The sudden movement knocks your whip's grip, freeing the prowler's leg, but it no longer needs you holding it down to prevent its escape
The caimadon kicks its legs and batters at Delphine's underbelly as she pins its shoulders down, preventing its deadly fangs from reaching her. Angua is less fortunate, however, and is sent sprawling by a blow of the hunter's powerful tail. She collapses against the wall of the canyon, but she's on her feet again within moments.
Contemplate killing the beast for food. .>
This creature's not going anywhere for a while, so you ponder what you're going to do with it as you approach while it continues to attempt to fight the fenprin away. Caimadon meat is edible, if a bit on the tough side, with a tangy and somewhat bitter flavor. You could in theory just chase it back into the plains and hope it returns to its pride, but if left unchecked it may simply decide to forage among your flocks elsewhere for food before leaving. Best to remove the danger now.
You won't make the creature suffer, though. You're strong enough to break its neck. You just need to get it unconscious first.
You don't get more than a few yards closer before a much, much louder roar stops you in your tracks. A roar that came from above.
Standing on the edge of the Crag above is the pride-king, the full-maned male caimadon you had dearly hoped was not here.
This changes things significantly.
Delphine and Angua were no less stunned by the sound, and the huntress took advantage of the opportunity, kicking free of Delphine at last and scrambling onto a nearby boulder. Now there's two of them, one of which is the much larger and much stronger male, and both look ready to pounce.